They did it.
With a 7-0 victory over Treynor on Monday, Preston advanced to its first softball state semifinal.
“It feels amazingly good,” Preston second baseman Cassie Aldis said. “We’ve all been working so hard this season and even in the offseason when we started. We had big dreams and now we’re accomplishing all of our dreams.”
This was the third trip to the Class 1A state tournament for the Trojans — all coming in the past four seasons — and Preston won a game in each of their previous trips. Both times it was in the seventh-place game.
Preston coach Sarah Manning said those experiences helped her team against Treynor.
“I think the girls kind of knew what to expect coming into this game,” she said. “They’ve been here before, a lot of them. We weren’t nervous at all. We just came out and played hard. We were aggressive and did our job.”
Senior pitcher Kelcie Bormann set the tone for the Trojans in the top of the first inning by striking out all three Treynor batters she faced.
Things wouldn’t get any easier for the Cardinals as Bormann struck out 14 batters and allowed only four hits in the complete-game shutout. She was two away from tying the record for strikeouts in a regulation Class 1A softball game — a record Bormann shares with Ashlee Simon of Highland.
“At state, everyone is a good hitter,” she said. “I just want to get them out, and 14 is still a good number.”
The Trojans manufactured a run in the bottom of the first to take the lead. Bormann was hit by a pitch to lead off, went to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Nicole Tren-kamp. Senior catcher Megan Zeimet singled between the shortstop and third baseman, scoring Bormann.
“It helps a lot when you go out there and you’re already up,” Bormann said. “It gives you confidence because you’re ahead. They have to fight their way back, and we just have to keep holding them.”
Bormann wouldn’t need any more support, baffling Treynor with the combination of her rise ball, fastball and changeup.
“Megan calls a good game,” Bormann said. “So I just throw what she tells me to throw. We try to keep hitters off-balance and change speeds.”
A couple of defensive miscues in the top of the fourth gave Treynor its only real chance to score. Protecting a one-run lead, Bormann dropped a one-out popup, allowing Sarah Klahn to reach first base. Klahn stole second to put a runner in scoring position.
Bormann struck out the next batter, Morgan Jacobsen, but she advanced to first on the dropped third strike and Klahn moved up to third. Next, opposing pitcher Kaitlin Floerchinger reached on a bunt single — Treynor’s first hit of the game — to load the bases with one out.
“I was just focused on getting outs,” Bormann said. “I knew my defense was going to back me up. My goal was to just make easy outs for my team. ... I really wasn’t that worried. I knew we’d let them score no runs or only one run.”
Zeimet caught a popup off a bunt for the second out. Aldis caught a popup by the first-base line to retire the side with no damage done.
The Cardinals would not have multiple runners on base again.
“She was very dominating,” Manning said of her pitcher. “Our defense had a couple great plays behind her. She just does a good job. She’s solid.”
One of those defensive plays erased Treynor’s first baserunner. Bormann hit Emma Fiene with one out in the third to end her bid for a perfect game.
Fiene took a lead off first, and after a pitch to the next batter, Zeimet fired a throw to Aldis, who was covering first on the play. Fiene slid in safely but then took her hand off the bag before calling timeout and was promptly called out by the umpire.
“Normally runners are smart enough to get back, but she might have thought he called time,” Aldis said. “I’ve always been taught to keep it on her. I guess it worked out. I don’t know if she was sleeping or what she was doing.”
Aldis said that was the first time she had ever gotten an out by holding a tag on a runner already called safe.
Preston scored an unearned run in the fourth inning, then broke the game open in the fifth.
Through four innings, Floerchinger had allowed one earned run on three hits, but that all changed to start the fifth inning.
“We were on her the whole time,” Bormann said. “It was just time that the hits came through. Everyone’s bats were alive, and that helped a lot. Everyone did a great job hitting today.”
Trenkamp, Zeimet and Lizzie Meier hit back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases with nobody out. Then Aldis stepped to the plate.
She lined a 1-1 pitch back through the middle to center field, scoring Trenkamp and keeping the bases loaded.
“I went in there thinking, ‘A hit. Just a hit,’ ” Aldis said. “It didn’t matter where I hit it, as long as I scored that run. That’s what I was worried about.”
Next, Emily Rittmer hit a single through the left side on a 3-0 pitch to score a run and keep the bases loaded. That gave Preston five hits in a row and ended Floerchinger’s night.
“We have the snowball effect on our team,” Aldis said. “If one person gets a hit, then we all start hitting.”
Against the new pitcher, Madison Keysor, Ryleigh Keeney hit an RBI groundout and Emily Henningsen drove in a run on a fielder’s choice. Then, with Bormann batting, Rittmer scored on a passed ball, giving Preston five runs in the inning.
Next up for the Trojans is top-ranked Akron-Westfield at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Manning said she believed if Preston played its best it didn’t matter whom the Trojans were playing.
“Now we know we’re in the top four,” Manning said. “We’ve got to come out and prove ourselves.”
They made it to the semifinals, but they have more work to do before they’re satisfied.
PRESTON 7, TREYNOR 0
Treynor 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Preston 100 150 x — 7 8 3
Kaitlin Floerchinger (L 26-4, 4 ip, 8 h, 7 r, 5 er, 1 bb, 3 k), Madison Keysor (2 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 er, 1 bb, 1 k) and Kate Killinger; Kelcie Bormann (W 29-4, 7 ip, 4 h, 0 r, 0 er, 0 bb, 14 k) and Megan Zeimet. Multiple hits — Preston (Zeimet 2-4, Cassie Aldis 2-3). RBIs — Preston (Zeimet, Aldis, Emily Rittmer, Ryleigh Keeney, Emily Henningsen).